Three Best Calibers for Armed Self-Defense


Caliber wars — gun owners arguing over the relative merits of various calibers of self-defense ammunition — are an ugly, protracted business. This article will do nothing to reduce the hostility, and much to increase it. So be it. A gun owner’s choice of caliber for personal defense is a serious business. After reading the text below, I recommend reading the comments as well. Try out different handguns in different calibers and don’t get “married” to a particular choice. There may be a better gun – ammo – holster combo out there, somewhere . . .

1. 9mm

Gun gurus once considered 9mm ammunition underpowered, best for shooters who couldn’t or wouldn’t “man-up” and shoot the big boy .45 caliber bullet. Not anymore. In terms of “stopping power,” the experts now see it as something of a wash. The smaller and faster 9mm bullet offers more penetration than a .45, while the .45 offers greater expansion (makes bigger holes) than the 9mm. But in terms of recoil, there’s a significant difference.

According to, the recoil generated by the G19 generated 4.76 ft.-lbs. of recoil, compared to the G21’s 7.21 ft-lbs. This confirms what experienced shooters will tell you: it’s easier to hit what you’re aiming at with a 9mm round than a .45. And when it comes to self-defense, shot placement is king.

There are other, confusing variables. A small 9mm handgun is harder to control than a heavy .45. But generally speaking, most shooters are more accurate with 9mm than .45 (or .40 caliber ammunition). Add in the low price of 9mm target ammo and the carry capacity enabled by the round’s diminutive size and it’s easy to see why 9mm rules the self-defense ammo roost.

2. .38 Special

Revolvers remain ideal for new shooters — especially those who won’t train or hit the range. Which is, let’s face it, the vast majority of American gun buyers. While revolvers come in some astoundingly powerful calibers (e.g. .44 Magnum), those guns generate the same accuracy-robbing recoil described above. And then some.

A wheelgun in chambered in the softer shooting .38 Special will get ‘er done. While the .38 Special surrenders speed (about 300 ft./sec.) and energy (about 150 ft.-lbs.) to the 9mm, so what? A modern hollow-point .38 caliber bullet still generates more than merely adequate penetration and, critically, controllable recoil (when shot from anything other than a lightweight snubbie).

The .38 Special’s real drawback? Capacity. Most revolvers chambered in .38 hold either five (for small guns) or six rounds. That’s not a lot of ammo when you consider the fact that handgun rounds [in general] aren’t particularly lethal, and that many attacks involve multiple assailants. Even so, the .38 Special round makes revolvers viable if not ideal (is there such a thing?) self-defense for millions of Americans.

3. 10mm

Let’s say recoil isn’t an issue; you know how to control it. You could shoot .45, but you want greater capacity and, crucially, the most effective man-stopping [almost] commonly available handgun cartridge money can buy. That would be the same round the FBI chose for its agents: 10mm.

Right until they didn’t. The Fibbies bailed on 10mm when they discovered that many of their employees couldn’t shoot the round for beans (i.e. accurately). It’s worth repeating: the 10mm cartridge is a stout round, serving-up roughly 50 percent more recoil than a .45.

The payoff for getting to grips with a 10mm handgun? Power. Depending on the ammo, 10mm generates some 650 – 750 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy, compared to around 350 – 450 ft.-lbs. for a .45. You’re still better off with a rifle, and shot placement is always the thing, but 10mm is the the ammo hunters depend on in bear country. Say no more? I doubt it . . .


  1. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

    Serious problems in this article and .45 gets dogged twice. First it’s to hard on nancy boys hands in comparison to a 9mm and then they skip common calibers like the .45 and the .40 to go to 10mm? If your going to go for more power at least go to a .357. So much fail here. True “stopping” power doesn’t begin until we go up to .308 Win level rifles anyway.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      I’m pretty sure the author of this article carries a .45ACP on a regular basis. He just likes to stoke the fire every once in a while.

      There are a lot of 1911 platform 10mm pistols out there. Time to man up Robert! 😉

      1. avatar anonymoose says:

        Yeah, Wilson and Dan Wesson make 10mm 1911s, Les Baer makes some, as do STI and SVI iirc, but I guess Cabot just isn’t into that sort of thing because most of their schtick is about engraving and inlaying and cosmetic stuff.

    2. avatar Hello World says:

      FN 5-7 is excellent that way

    3. avatar johnathan campbell says:

      It doesn’t matter what’s common. The 10mm is superior to the .45 in every way. If you’re going to go big go 10mm period. If it’s for a SHTF gun, that’s different. You want something common like a .45. My list would have been .357, 10mm, and 9mm. Just because every civilian rambo think’s the slow .45 is “cool” doesn’t make it the best.

  2. avatar 2ACanuck says:

    You forgot entertaining.

    Caliber wars are entertaining 🙂 Much like the ‘ideal’ hunting caliber, caliber wars are also kind of pointless. Having read hundreds of these threads as well as comparison articles in gun mags I have to say. I still kinda enjoy them, and often learn something. But the reason I read them is entertainment.

    Sometimes its thoughtful as I expect Dyspeptic Gunsmith will be if he chips in. Often its laughable and occasionally its painful (face palm). IMO, there is a wide range of suitable cartridges for self-defence, and anything between a 38 and a 10 mm in power, recoil etc (including 40, 45, 9mm etc) is an ideal option. Put it in the right place with a quality bullet and they’ll all work.

    1. avatar Matt(TX) says:

      I also love caliber wars. However I think the real world would say: Carry a gun, be familiar with shooting It. Use it if you have to.

      ps I like my .45 but usually just carry a mouse .380

      1. avatar Micheal J says:

        I agree, .45 cause I’m dead on ptarget but it’s much harder to concel carry it! My .380 Gets slot of carry time with me as well.

  3. avatar Esoteric Inanity says:

    Bullet choice is far more critical than caliber.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Bullet placement is most important.

      Goes back to – “carry the most powerful handgun that you can control and get repeated hits”.

      Farago just going for click bait activity to up the counts…..

      1. avatar Esoteric Inanity says:

        “Bullet placement is most important.”

        This was never disputed, other points made are also legitimate.

        To the initial comment, bullet type is highly relevant as FMJ can make for a very poor self defense round. Some people just think “Hey cheap 9mm, 45acp etc. ammo, good to go”.

  4. avatar Rabbi says:

    Bullet design has come a long way in the last couple decades. It used to be that 9mm was inferior to 45, but with modern design bullets, the difference is negligible. For many, the lighter recoil 9mm means more rounds on target and the smaller cartridge offers increased capacity over 45. I have recently switched to 9mm after carrying 45 for most of my adult life due to the increased gang violence incited by the Black Lies Matter terrorist organization.

    Handguns have very little stopping power as defined as the ability of the bullet to destroy the body’s ability to move. Even 5.56 has shown to be lacking. As stated above, true stopping power does not occur until you get into intermediate sized rifle cartridges. 308 is a manstopper. 6.5 SPC and 300BLK are good choices as well.

    The key to handgun stopping power is shot placement with multiple rounds, until the threats stops. Put as much hurt on the attacker, as fast as you can. Keep shooting until the threat is over.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      A while back I was looking at a Ru ger Super Redhawk in .454 Casull with a 7.5″ barrel thinking how cool that would be with a nice 2-7x pis tol scope mounted. So I went to Buffalo Bore’s site to peruse am mo choices and came to the conclusion that what I’d have is a 4-1/2 pound, 13″ long hand cannon that’s essential about as powerful as a .30-30. Didn’t have $1200 burning a hole in my pocket so I guess I’ll stick with the .30-30 for now. Handguns are indeed weak.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Gov. Le Petomane,

        In my opinion it depends on what you want to do. I am seriously thinking about carrying a full-size revolver in .44 Magnum as my “trunk gun” for those times when a “standard” handgun is lacking. With a 6.5 inch or longer barrel and hot ammunition (including nice expanding hollowpoint bullets), a .44 Magnum revolver is wicked on humans out to 100 yards. The best part: that .44 Magnum revolver can easily fit in a small space, a backpack, computer bag, or even a shoulder holster under a jacket without anyone ever knowing it — which means you can take it with you just about anywhere. You cannot do that with a lever-action rifle chambered in .30-30 Winchester.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          I’ve concealed carried my .44 magnum Blackhawk (50th anniversary – 6-1/2″) and my 6″ GP 100 in a cheap shoulder hol ster I converted from Beretta 92 to revolver with a pop rivet. Little slow on the draw though. No argument about the effectiveness of the .44 magnum as a self defense round. But in terms of energy it’s basically a .223, which with expanding am mo would also be pretty effective. As for the .454, in fairness it’s slow heavy bul let would be much better suited for stopping large bears than a .30-30, but in terms of energy, or as a deer gun they’re about the same. And not that the .30-30 hasn’t taken more deer (not to mention moose) than God, but we tend to think of it as the lower end of the power spectrum for hun ting white tails. I say we should a) give the .30-30 credit where credit’s due and b) if you’re going to rely on a hand gun for self defense, pick something that hits hard. Your hearing will come back in a couple of days.

        2. avatar Defens says:

          When hiking or doing field work, my carry gun is a Scandium frame m329pd with a red dot. I load with 305 gr bear loads when there’s a chance of meeting Yogi, and 225 gr hornady otherwise. I like revolvers in the field, and .44 mag in the lightweight S&W works very well for carry.

      2. avatar James69 says:

        I swapped an old Vulcan V-15 for a(Super Redhawk 454) one of the older models with the target grey finish. Using the Hornady bullets it explodes animals at the 50-75 yard range. Love it. I recently saw a used revolver in 45-70 – BFG I think, in stainless that has me thinking…….

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          And in fairness, the .30-30 has been the equivalent to what small pox was to indigenous Americans.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          To deer that is…

        3. avatar Andrew Lews says:

          “BFR” Biggest, Finest, Revolver

          Proud offering of Magnum Research. You can actually get a BFR chambered in practically any rimmed cartridge in commercial production, many rimless cartridges as well.

    2. avatar David Carson says:

      except of course in states like California with magazines limitted to 10 rounds–if I am limited to 9 rounds of 45 compared to 11 of 9mm in the same sized pistol, I would tend to go 45, although I do agree a 9mm Keltec or Kahr pocket makes sense

      1. avatar Ed says:

        or 11 rounds of 10mm. .45’s still don’t always go through the first car door or firewall. I’d much rather have 11 rounds of 10mm than 8 of .45

  5. avatar Paul53 says:

    Self defense……against what? I concur with what you’ve said, as far as it goes. There are so many imaginable self defense scenarios that you’d need to start with sling shots and end with an armored division. Perhaps the theoretical self defense situation needs a standard definition of, say, one dirt bag not on meth, crack or bath salts, in an open area without non combatants behind him/her/it. As for me, a Glock 19. If 15 rounds of 9mm can’t bring us to some understanding, well I guess I’m screwed!

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      “As for me, a Glock 19. If 15 rounds of 9mm can’t bring us to some understanding, well I guess I’m screwed!”


      FWIW over the years there have been numerous dead bodies taken to various morgues with only puny little .22 and .25 cal slugs in them. Gunfighting rule #1 – bring a gun. So pick a gun and caliber you can shoot the best with. Carry a well tested hollowpoint round for your gun and barrel length and roll your eyes at all this caliber drama. Just go practice, practice, and practice. Shot placement is the name of the game with any handgun round.

      BTW, been several large game animals (including bears) taken down with modern 9mm ammo.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        “Carry a well tested hollowpoint round for your gun and barrel length …”

        That is the biggest dilemma facing anyone … and an extremely important one to get right.

        “… over the years there have been numerous dead bodies taken to various morgues with only puny little .22 and .25 cal slugs in them. ”

        While absolutely true, those tiny .22 and .25 caliber slugs tend to take a LOT longer to incapacitate an attacker than a 9mm or larger round.

        1. avatar Cliff H says:

          Assuming a determined attacker willing to face incoming fire, you are absolutely right.

          In the real world where most attacks are of random victims for petty returns – muggings or jealousy or Quickie Marts, etc., the last thing the perp wants or expects is to be faced with an armed victim. In that case any of the standard calibers would be ideal for defense, but any pistol that makes a loud BANG and throws lead in their direction will most often result in your second shot being in their backside.

          Just as simply showing that you are armed has significant deterrence value, any dangerous noise-maker can get the job done unless the guy is determined that he wants to hurt you no matter what happens.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:


      “Self defense……against what?”

      That is the most important question to ask. For which threat profiles do you want to have a decent response?

      Do you want to dissuade a teenage mugger who wants a quick buck for a new pair of shoes? Any handgun in any caliber (including .22 LR) is absolutely fine. Do you want to stop an ex-husband who has come to kill you? Best to have a full-size handgun in 9mm or larger caliber. Do you want to immediately put down a crazed, suicidal terrorist with one shot? I am thinking a revolver with a 6 inch barrel chambered in .44 Magnum.

      In my opinion 9mm, in a full size handgun with Hornady Critical Defense 135 grain cartridges, is a very good choice for most threat profiles that people would want to address. I would say that its only two deficits are modest barrier penetration capability and modest “stopping power” against a crazed terrorist on a suicide mission.

      I personally want better barrier penetration without giving up much capacity so I carry a full-size handgun in .40 S&W with Winchester Ranger bonded 180 grain hollowpoints. And even that is lacking for the crazed terrorist on a suicide mission … which is why I am thinking of keeping a .44 Magnum revolver handy. (A .44 Magnum revolver with a 6 inch barrel will launch hot 180 grain hollowpoint bullets at something like 1700 fps — that’s 1,155 foot-pounds energy!)

      1. avatar Dave M says:

        Ruger Polycase ARX ammo will penetrate a barrier, even sheet metal, and still deliver more stopping power than traditional rounds. I do my own testing at my own range with my own guns to see what actually works and what works in theory. It’s not cheap, just like any other PD round. When I see a water jug exploded with a .380 ACP like it was hit with a 9mm or 38 JHP instead of just flinching, it’s amazing. The 9mm ARX performs like a .357 JHP. When I work down my supply of .38 & .357 ammo I want to test the ARX in those flavors also.

        1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

          Nothing against Ruger, Polycase nor testing on water jugs at ones own ranch; but for the average punter, using what police departments large enough to have a good compilation of actual shootings on file choose to use, is probably the “safest” choice. At least as long as we’re talking about common service calibers. .44mag hollowpoint rounds with the kind of external ballistics quoted, probably needs to justification.

        2. avatar Dave M says:

          ARX is still fairly new to the scene, will probably take a while to establish a history. I have lots of traditional 380, 9mm, 38 spl & 357 mag ammo also. Decided to try the ARX in 380 & 9mm to see how it compared (my stockpile even includes Speer Gold Law Enforcement ammo). The ARX gives stellar performance.

      2. avatar J says:

        “Against what?” Shouldn’t be limited to just human aggressors either. Pit bull got loose and lagged onto your kid’s leg? 10mm at least, or better yet (sorry wrists) one of those .600 nitro express revolvers.

  6. avatar Duh says:

    The click bate, so strong, can’t resist, no 45, must resist.

    Well done TTAG! Next level trolling.

    Could have just said 357, 9, 45, but who’s gonna click on that shiznit.

    1. avatar Skoon says:

      At least rf admits up front to stirring the caliber war pot and not trying to settle it

    2. avatar Hoth says:

      9, 45, and 357 are the three I would have chosen as well.

  7. avatar Southern Cross says:

    As much as a like bigger holes, hits count and misses don’t.

    The 9mm is more than enough and easier to handle in a concealable handgun package.

    1. avatar Chief Master says:

      Sounds like you’re saying you prefer smaller holes, and lots of them.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        A 9mm is .357 inches, a .40 .400 inches, and a .45 .452 inches (prior to being fired). There is therefore less than a tenth of an inch difference in diameter between the high and the low. And that same difference continues into fully expanded HPs. The argument is no longer the size of the bullet, but whether a particular round achieves adequate penetration and expansion, something even a .380 can do. The main difference is horsepower–foot pounds of energy imparted–and even then, the issue is still how much of that energy is dumped into the target instead of being expended uselessly in overpenetration. Just as an example, a .223 has much more energy due to its high velocity, but if it doesn’t tumble or fragment, it makes an itty bitty tiny hole smaller than a pencil 0.25 in.), causing little damage.

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          ^ This.

          I would clarify that handgun energy levels (not including .44 Magnum) are pretty much irrelevant. Bullet diameter and adequate penetration are FAR more important.

          For reference, assuming that sectional density and impact velocity determine penetration (which may be a totally bogus assumption), a 135 grain 9mm bullet would penetrate farther than a 230 grain .45 caliber bullet.

        2. avatar tmm says:

          Pi * (Diameter/2) * (Diameter/2)

        3. avatar Stuki Moi says:

          I will be very surprised if some clever soul not too far into the future, does not realize that the currently fashionable fascination with measuring resting expanded bullet diameter in gel tests, are pretty darned useless.

          For one, it’s just the resting diameter.

          For another, the expanded shape is not taken into account, despite everybody who has ever shot any amount of living beings knowing full and well bullet meplat have a huge impact on wound channels for any given caliber.

          And, again as hunters who have shot at larger animals and impacted bone knows, bullets that deform less on bone impact, tend to be more reliable stoppers. And deform when faced with bone, is exactly what long, beautiful looking, high scoring in the currently fashionable tests, peeled back petals of soft lead and/or copper will do.

          And to top it off, as long as entry momentum is the same, and penetration is the same, one way or the other, the tissue the bullet has passed through has provided the same amount of resistance to the bullet. Sacrificing itself in the process. So the final resting shape, really doesn’t add much information. At best, same penetration with wider resting shape, indicates slower, later expansion, hence higher impact momentum on deeper laying anatomical structures, at the cost of less disruption of shallower laying tissue. Which _may_ be desirable, but man is that getting speculative.

        4. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Stuki Moi,

          I am on the same page. There are so many variables when it comes to truly stopping an attacker that it seems basically impossible to model them. For now, all we have are the imperfect gel tests and real world data.

    2. avatar Cliff H says:

      Buckshot in a 12 works so well because you get instant multiple wounds. That said, two quick 9mm hits make a larger wound than one .45, regardless of bullet expansion. Therefore, follow up shots are the key and if you can’t get ’em with a .45, try something smaller.

  8. avatar Dr. D says:

    If putting shots on target is the standard of measurement, then I’m not buying the 9mm over the .45 argument. I still shoot my 1911 better than any of my other autos (9mm, .40, .380, etc.). It all comes down to personal preference.

  9. avatar former water walker says:

    I’m using 9mm not because it’s better but ’cause it’s cheaper . And my Taurus 111g2 is costing me 200bucks. If I want “stopping power” I use 70caliber…

    1. avatar Skoon says:

      70cal? I go to my 70MM recompiled rifle for stopping power

      1. avatar former water walker says:

        Shotgun shell?

        1. avatar James69 says:

          I have an AR style rifle in….. wait for it….. .729 Redneck…. a new wildcat caliber…..(12ga) 🙂

    2. avatar Jake says:

      I’m with you on that. The best caliber is one that you carry and practice with. The pt111 g2 and 9mm allow those of us with limited funds to do both.

      With unlimited funds, I’d certainly buy more guns, and maybe carry them.
      But for a reliable gun with adequate performance and the least expensive ammo, how can it be wrong?

  10. avatar tdiinva (now in Wisconsin} says:

    A Revolver is not a good choice for new shooters or those who don’t want to spend time mastering the skills necessary to use it effectively. Just because you “just pull trigger until it goes bang” doesn’t mean you are going to hit anything. You have to master a very long heavy trigger pull and anybody who has fired a J-frame knows that even 38 special, especially in +P, is not comfortable to shoot. 38 Special may be soft shooting out a full sized 686 but certainly not out of a small revolver.

    The 45 ACP is not the beast it’s made out to be. It is more a push than a snap. It is very manageable when fired from a steel framed pistol like a 1911. Only steel framed pistols chambered in 9mm take full advantage of the reduced recoil. A majority of concealed carriers are walking around with G-26s and smaller. The difference in felt recoil is less than the 2.5lbs cited in the article.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Wow, I think you’ve actually said something about revolvers I actually agree with. Although the practice averse newb would still probably be fine out to 5 or maybe 10 yards which would cover the vast majority of self defense shootings.

    2. avatar Dave M says:

      “You have to master a very long heavy trigger pull and anybody who has fired a J-frame knows that even 38 special, especially in +P, is not comfortable to shoot.” That’s why you get a Ruger LCR, a modern revolver with a great trigger & superb recoil management. The ‘J’ frame needs relegated to the history books.

    3. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      You have to master a very long heavy trigger pull and anybody who has fired a J-frame knows that even 38 special, especially in +P, is not comfortable to shoot.

      I found that to be true with a S&W J-frame, but my LCR .357 with the Hogue grip and LCR-X 3″ with a Crimson Trace grip are both absolute pussycats with .38 +P. If I want to hurt my hand I have to go to .357.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Wow, that is interesting. Shooting standard 125 grain .38 Special (not +P) out of a 16 ounce j-frame revolver is quite unpleasant … in fact noticeably more unpleasant than shooting every other handgun that I have ever shot (including large .357 and .44 Magnum revolvers).

        I will have to try and track down someone who has a Ruger LCR and see how the recoil feels. And I always wondered if an LCR in .327 Federal Magnum would be the sweet spot in terms of “power”, recoil, and capacity. (You get SIX rounds instead of the standard five rounds in tiny revolvers.)

        1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

          It probably has more to do with the grips than the LCR. My S&W had a hard stock grip. The Hogue Tamers that come with the LCR are really nice, and the Crimson Trace grips on my LCR-X 3″ are also pretty cushy and forgiving in the backstrap, as well as being full-size grips.

        2. avatar Dave M says:

          The enhanced recoil management in the LCR comes from the Hogue grips AND polymer frame. This is modern revolver that works.

        3. avatar Montesa_VR says:

          I have fairly large hands. The recoil of a Ruger LCR firing 158 grain standard .38 loads is not painful to my wrist or the web of my hand, but after a while the knuckle of my trigger finger gets sore from being rapped against the inside of the trigger guard. I have no desire to try shooting one in .357, but then I don’t really see the point of firing .357 magnum out of a 1.8″ barrel unless your goal is to give the perp a heart attack even if you miss.

      2. avatar RandallOfLegend says:

        My 642 hurt me good. But I think it was mostly due to the grip not fitting my hand well. I bought smaller wood grips, that increase the length of pull. That puts the grip in a better spot in my hand for recoil control. But my Kahr CM40 (13 oz 40 S&W!) hurts less than my 642 (15oz) shooting 38+P

  11. avatar me says:

    Hmm, i prefer hornady xtp handloads in whichever bore size i decide to carry that day, and ill say yet again, my .45 has a higher capacity than my 9mm. And ill add that im far more accurate with my striker fired .45 than the DAO 9mm. Do i care which one is superior, nope, 11 or more rounds will likely be enough either way, and if not, thats what the extra mag is for. Caliber wars are stupid, carry what works for you, chances are youll never need it, but when and if you do, be glad shes on your hip. Nuff said.

  12. avatar TyrannyOfEvilMen says:

    Well, at speed I do shoot 9 mm slightly better than .45 out of a concealed carry sized handgun, so I suppose by the “caliber wars” logic that would make any threat slightly more stopped. ?

  13. avatar Robert says:

    Hmm. I always went with 12ga, .357 magnum, 5.56

  14. avatar Tom in PA says:

    And here I thought the best caliber was shot placement.

  15. avatar Michael says:

    I don’t see my 38 specials losing 300 fps to 9MM when comparing comparable bullet weights….

  16. avatar Hellbilly says:

    Bone stock Glock 19 9mm with 15-round magazine and a spare 17-rounder for EDC. Glock 35 .40 S&W with TLR-1 light and 22-round magazine for the night stand. Glock 40 10mm with red dot sight and full-power loads in a 17-round (15 rounder with +2 base) magazine for roaming the woods.

    1. avatar me says:

      Got Glock? ^ he do lol

    2. avatar Mr Wu says:

      A Glock for all seasons!

  17. avatar Scott C. says:

    Caliber wars are so asinine. Everyone knows the Phased Plasma Rifle in 40 watt range is the ultimate at everything, when are we going to get a review on that…..

    1. avatar Snorey says:

      Hey, just what you see here, pal!

  18. avatar dwb says:

    wut, no 357?

    epic fail

  19. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    ‘Revolvers remain ideal for new shooters’ – and experts alike. But the only thing the .38 special really has going for it is that it’s probably better than .380acp. Unless you’re one of ‘those who won’t train or hit the range’ or looking for a pocket gun, you’d be far better off with a .357 magnum. And since the article is titled ‘Three Best Calibers for Armed Self Defense’ and not ‘Three best calibers for newbs who don’t want to practice’ or ‘Three best calibers for deep concealment’ I think I have to call out this error.

    1. avatar Dave M says:

      Ruger Polycase .380 ACP ammo evens the playing field with .38 Spl, even JHP’s. This stuff is flat out amazing. ARX is also now available in .38 Spl; will test it out when my .38 Spl supply drops. This ARX ammo takes power, accuracy & recoil management to a higher level.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Polycase ammo aside, I’d consider .38 special superior to .380acp since it does the job with heavier bullets at lower speed which leads to deeper penetration, which is where the .380 is lacking.

      2. avatar Timothy says:

        Ruger makes polycase for .38 special as well as .380 and 9mm. Just throwing that out there.

    2. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      Agreed on the .357 part. Unless I get a .38 spl used or within certain limitations (I want a Model 12 aluminum K-frame but would settle for a 327) I would prefer a .357 just for the option of running the hotter ammo.

  20. avatar tiger says:

    You can count on your fingers just how many firms even make a 10mm. It is become niche round like the .38 Super. The 9mm luger & .38spl /.357 mag cover most of the gun marketplace. The round really missing from discussion is the .380 acp. It takes up the other market chunk. Personally, I follow the 9mm luger & up rule. The .40 & .357sig have a say still. As for the .45acp? It works, but it has turned into a cult thing. Like those who still lust for Harleys & old Mopars.

  21. avatar jwm says:

    Let’s take another tack. A handgun, or any gun for that matter, is a machine. What do machines do when you really need them? They’re busy having an orgy with Murphy, that fuck.

    How many times you know someone trying to escape a zombie, werewolf or other monster, such as a hillary, and their car won’t start?

    It’s about spares people. Keep a motorcycle or smart car in your truck bed in case the truck won’t start.

    So the best caliber is Prius.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      Daewoo Lanos > Prius

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Pineapple Express. Love that movie.

  22. avatar Chadwick says:

    458 socom… because an ar pistol is still a pistol haha.

  23. avatar RCC says:

    40 mm grenade launcher with flechette round ( 115 projectiles) for real stopping power but hard to conceal. Great fun on range though

    1. avatar Paul53 says:

      Like the way you think! When I lived in El Paso, scavengers were picking up, among other things, live 40mm ammo until one went boom. It was on a well marked, prohibited, target range on Fort Bliss. Then the EOD hurt locker guys tracked them to a specific junk dealer who had purchased a number of them. No idea if he’d already sold any.

  24. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    Robert has sure been on a low effort high return article binge lately. Just asks a controversial question or makes controversial statement and then watches the comment section provide the traffic.

    1. avatar kenneth says:

      And remember when “lately” started? Right when TTAG got frozen out of facebook and lost 60% of its traffic, that’s when…
      So, like always, it’s Soros’ and Bloomberg’s fault

      1. avatar Mr Wu says:


  25. avatar Steven says:

    No love for the .50 BMG? I guarantee any any DGU would be successful with .50 BMG.

    1. avatar DrewR says:

      Nonsense, we all know that real stopping power doesn’t start until the .950JDJ. If you can’t lug a hundred and twenty pound rifle around, you aren’t man enough to defend yourself. /sarc/ Obviously.

  26. avatar Bmworld says:

    I carry whatever’s going to fit in my pants ? 45, 40, and 380 the best caliber is the one you have on you!

  27. avatar MPH says:

    I call total BS on this whole article. The author is just trying to generate a caliber flame war in the comment section; 99.9% of the statements he made are factually dubious, subjective opinion, or just downright stupid – like the ridiculous chestnut that handgun rounds “aren’t particularly lethal” (that got an audible laugh out of me).

    Guess it’s a slow news day or something.

    1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      When people speak of handgun rounds not being particularly lethal, it’s usually understood to be in the context of “compared to rifle rounds.”

      But even on their own: most shootings in the U.S. are done with handguns. I’ve seen studies showing anywhere from 67% to 85% survival rates. lists 95% but I don’t consider them a reliable source.

      So, worst-case, 67% survival rate. Whether you consider that “particularly lethal” I suppose depends on your frame of reference. It’s definitely in the “I don’t want to get shot” category.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


        I found a reliable source (although I cannot relocate that source for the life of me) that indicates around 22% of ALL gunshot wounds (accidental and criminal) are fatal, which means that people survive 78% of all (accidental and criminal) gunshot wounds. While that statistic includes long guns, we also know that long guns are the weapon in only about 5% of all murders with a firearm. Thus handguns are the weapon in about 95% of murders with a firearm. When you combine all those factors, I am quite confident that handguns are only lethal about 20% of the time.

        Whether or not someone considers a 20% mortality rate to be “not particularly lethal” is a matter of opinion. I consider it to be not particularly lethal, especially compared to rifles and shotguns.

  28. avatar Deal with it says:

    Shooting a 9mm at someone will only turn them gay, then you’ll have an enraged gay attacker on the rampage for your rear. .45 mearly bounces off skin harmlessly. 40 cal will snap your wrist off and disseapere into thin air. 10mm will explode your gun sending the slide into your face, then also turning YOU gay!!!

    1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      So … .357 magnum then?

      1. avatar kenneth says:

        S&W Model 25. .45 colt in a double action. The best of both worlds. OFC, “N” frames are a little difficult to carry, but you can’t have everything.

        1. avatar david Carson says:

          how about the Ruger Redhawk that is a dual caliber–45 Colt and 45 automatic Colt Pistol

  29. avatar Kendahl says:

    The best caliber for self defense is the one that works in the gun you are able to (1) carry and (2) shoot well. On a hike in bear country, that could be a 10 mm or a .44 magnum. During daily life in the city, where deep concealment is socially necessary, that could be a .380 in your pocket. Greg Ellifritz has written about an elderly mountain man from Tennessee who carries one or two snubbies in .22 LR. Eight or sixteen holes in your chest, neck and head will ruin your day even if they are small holes.

  30. avatar SackShooter says:

    Hell, a well placed bb to the cod sack will stop most liberal men!

    1. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

      Most liberal “men” don’t have a cod sack or any other type of sack.

      1. avatar Big Johnson Jr. says:

        When you guys are done chasing squirrels, you might think about the .44 Magnum pictured that looks like a Buffalo Bore Hard Cast 340 grain flattop. For self defense against anything in the lower 48, that should be the winner of this game. The rest of the calibers are for certain offensive game under certain conditions in certain situations. Oh, and to play pretend with because the gun is already purchased.

      2. avatar anonymoose says:

        And that’s overkill. Ye olde 125gr .357 is the king of all anti-personnel pistol cartridges. According to police reports, the .357 is the most likely to be a one-shot-stopper. The only thing better is 12 gauge or 20 gauge buckshot.

      3. avatar Michael says:

        Let’s keep the discussion to guns douche bag.

    2. avatar Desert Dave says:

      You have to be a pretty good shot to hit that on a liberal dumb a$$!

      1. avatar Steve says:

        Gang, easy on the Liberal Dumb A** stuff. I’m Blue and heavily-armed, and a staunch supporter of the 2nd. Liberalism comes in many forms. I happen to be liberal on many issues, but firearms aren’t one of them. I totally back the right to “keep & bear”. Blue comes in many varieties… just letting you know there are some of us “Liberal, Sack-less, Dumb A**es” who DO support the 2nd. Just sayin’. Thanks.

      2. avatar Bob says:

        Most liberal men don’t HAVE a cod sack.

      3. avatar Scoutino says:

        Steve and Michael, unfortunately it doesn’t matter at all what your position on 2A is as long as you vote for Democrats. You know, the party with gun control as a major point of its platform?
        Pro-gun rights Liberal is oxymoron unless you guys change your party’s view on 2A. I don’t agree with some of GOP program like immigration. But I couldn’t with clean conscience vote for people who are out to disarm us.

        1. avatar Steve says:

          I understand what you’re saying, and you’ve got a good point. Clearly, the only viable solution for me is to make enough money to buy a private island, (preferably Gilligan’s Island, with Mary Ann included), where the only politician is me. 😉 I guess one point I’d like to make is in response to people name-calling Liberals and being nasty. We just don’t need it, and it alienates people. Personally, I don’t care what anyone says about me… but it will ultimately have a negative effect on some, and it will tend to escalate. I’d rather not have a Liberal firearms-enthusiast get insulted like what we’ve seen here. That’s really all. I’d like people to show some respect, if they expect it in return. Thank you for your very kind, and intelligent response… it is appreciated!

    3. avatar Michael says:

      Or conservative yokel.

  31. avatar Bjorn Bjorsen says:

    Click bait.

    But it worked, so WTF, right?

  32. avatar BC says:

    “Shot placement is key”

    What utter BS. Yes, what the bullet hits it’s the determining factor of the effectiveness. But the nim-wits that spout this actually think that they have ice in their veins and are going to 1) be able to determine where vitals are on a human target that is likely to be clothed, turned at some angle and likely moving and 2) be able to “place” their shots exactly to hit a vital area in the middle of an adrenaline dump.

    Now if you want to say you carry 9mm because it offers the capacity to increase your odds of actually hitting something vital, I’ll buy that. And if you want to say .40/.45 gives you a better chance with each bullet to make a near miss into a barely hit, I’ll buy that too.

    But stop thumping your chest with “shot placement.” IMO, it’s dramatic overconfidence that may be hazardous to your health.

  33. avatar Cloudbuster says:

    Given A) the admittedly severe recoil on 10mm (not to mention ammo expense), and B) the acknowledgement that .45 Auto performance is just as good as the top contender, 9mm, doesn’t .45 Auto more deserve a top 3 spot than 10mm?

    If you want capacity, there’s the Glock 21 — 13 rounds of .45 Auto per magazine isn’t shabby at all.

    1. avatar SouthernPhantom says:

      I was thinking the same. 10mm, while neat, is not exactly what I would call practical. It has a role as a woods gun, but ammunition cost and scarcity make it suboptimal. .45ACP should have that slot.

      1. avatar Adub says:

        I don’t have trouble finding 10mm and it is only a bit more expensive than .45. I find my G20 to be very accurate, and capacity is greater than a G21. The round is also 50% more powerful.

        I accept that my gun requires two hands to shoot. I’m okay with that.

  34. avatar Aaron says:

    worst. TTAG article. ever.

  35. avatar Aaron says:

    a .22 LR in the eye duct will kill even Brock Lesnar.

    a 10mm to the thigh, if it misses the artery, might not stop a skinny.

  36. avatar Meanoldmike says:

    OK – here is another tack on the caliber wars: what handgun round has killed the most men? My guess is the .36 Colt Navy or possibly the 9mm Para if the stories I have read about “trench clearing” Lugers in WW1 are true.

    But I figure if the Colt Navy worked for someone with a lot of first hand experience like Nathan Bedford Forrest – well – my .38 Special J-frame should do just fine.

    1. avatar Hank says:

      Honestly? My guess would be 7.62×25, considering not only use by the Russian army in both world wars, but many executions by NKVD under Stalin. Also weapons chambered in it were exported globally, particularly to places like China, who had a civil war, then a communist regime which executed millions. Pol pot and North Korea were also supplied with these weapons. Stalin and Mao alone killed like what, 20 mil of their own people, EACH? Primarily with simple gun shots to the back of the head. Of course there were many other means, but I believe this was the most prevalent.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        The Ruskies just ripped of the 7.62×25 Tokarev from the 7.63×25 Mauser, so shouldn’t the Mauser get the credit (blame?)?

  37. avatar paul says:

    The best caliber for personal defense is the caliber that you can shoot, control for follow up shots AND hit your target consistently. If that’s a .45 or 9mm or .22 than that’s what it is; the end.

    1. avatar Adam Selene says:


      The most effective gun and caliber is the one that you diligently carry because it fits you, the shooter.

    2. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      While that has become a wildly popular internet je ne sais quoi, there’s usually a pretty good correlation between how well a given guy can hit with one caliber and the next. While anything is possible, the world of shooters aren’t really neatly divided into those who can hit with 22, those who can hit with 9 and those who can with 45. Miculek can probably hit with most anything, while your average San Francisco hipster can’t hit a toilet bowl at 2 feet with you know what… Despite being trained to do so since the age of one. By his own mom, nonetheless.

      For pragmatic people who aren’t weirdly caliber specific wrt their ability to hit stuff, and who is limiting their preparation to two legged threats, 9 in it’s latest incarnations would seem to work well enough. It’s cheap, available, and chambered in guns of any size from a pocket rocket to a carbine. It’s also fast enough to make me less concerned about expansion, even from barrels at the shorter end of the gun size range.

      Expand the threat matrix even slightly in the direction of 4 legged foes, and .40/.357(either kind) would get the nod. And if .357 is picked, a nice, quiet .45 for the bedside would be a nice compliment to a sig, as would a 44 special for a magnum.

      Just to be an annoying, contrarian twit, I’ll vote for .357Sig for out and about, .45Gap for the bedside…….

    3. avatar Totally Joking says:

      Yeah, but people who carry 45acp have bad judgment. Lets just be honest.

      1. No, bad judgment is by guys that carry the four-tay.
        Like the guy that ran into the back of my truck. The police report said he was carrying a Glock 23. I on the other hand was sporting the Glock 19.

    4. avatar Swampwalker says:

      I agree and would like to add that the handgun should be one you’d actually carry where and when you would need it.

      1. avatar Steve says:

        That is really what it boils down-to, isn’t it? We’re all different. The “Perfect Caliber” is the one you shoot best, shot from the firearm you’re most able to shoot accurately, consistently. Agreed! I like to experiment and try different cals just for fun, and to experience (and maybe get used-to) the recoil, accuracy, etc. But there is no “one” perfect solution because of our differing abilities and capabilities.

  38. avatar James69 says:

    Ammo,Ammo,Ammo. I’ve been using the ARX rounds. A buddy shot a small hog 30-40 lb with the 9mm and IT WRECKED IT. One shot.

    1. avatar Dave M says:

      I have been telling people about the ARX & it’s capabilities, truly an outstanding round. For those of you that don’t think a copper dust/polymer bullet can cut it, try it. I have the good fortune to have my own private range to test stuff however I wish, ARX is beyond remarkable.

      1. avatar Joe in San Antonio says:

        Do you work for ruger? Cause you are hyping a bullet like it’s made of deplete uranium or something.

        1. avatar Dave M says:

          NO, I was even hesitant to try ARX but if you don’t try something you don’t know if it works. This stuff works.

        2. avatar Steve says:

          I bought a box of ARX in .40 and I need to do some experimentation on my own. I don’t have anything against it, and I’m very open to the new tech. Just need to give it a shot… maybe today. It’s gonna be nice here in CO.

      2. avatar Joe in San Antonio says:

        you still need to hit a target

        1. avatar Dave M says:

          Another ARX +; accuracy.

  39. avatar Ken Millard says:

    caliber wars…Yawn…Of course there has to be a limited number in the discussion, or it gets way too clumbersome, If one wants another frame, it would be most-used. I’m sure 380 is carried more than 10mm, maybe even 45’s.
    I vote for something I’ll be able to afford practicing A LOT with, carry a lot when I no doubt miss, and doesn’t require to carry a firearm that is big & heavy.

  40. avatar Sam says:

    The “ideal” cartridge is the one in the firearm you can put your hands on when things turn south. That said, .9 mm Makarov/380s when you can’t conceal a bigger pistol and from there you’re in the wheelhouse with 9 mm para, .40, and .45 acp in autos. for wheel guns: .38 special, .357 mag, .44 special and .45 colt. Pick the one you can shoot and will carry.

    Sure you can carry a more powerful cartridge and lots of people end up underground with less powerful rounds. I submit; however, that doesn’t make them well suited for the application. VRiation of there are elk cartridges and cartridges used on elk.

  41. avatar Frank in VA says:

    Usually skillful trolling is reserved for comment sections under articles.

    In this case it was the article.

  42. avatar MLee says:

    If this was news-print bird cage paper, this would be called page filler. If it was broadcast news, it would a story like….”Is your dog physic? We’ll find out”
    If it was the anti Trump butt-hurts yapping, they’d be crying that Trump said this or that or made fun of Rosie O’Donnell because she an ugly dyke or he made fun of disabled journalist Serge Kovalesk by mocking him, hell, I’ve mocked more people than I’ll ever know!
    It must be a slow news day and I’m not biting.

    1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      I have bad news for you. You viewed the page and commented on the article. You bit! 🙂

  43. avatar jonnlakeland says:

    Clearly the best self defense round is the one you have available when you need it. Carry every day.

  44. avatar Charles says:

    Wow. I carry .380, .38 special, 9mm, .40, 357 mag, and .45acp. Depending on the situation. My .380 lcp is MUCH harder to shoot than my Sig P220 in .45 acp. New bullet technologies have made all of these calibers more useful for self defense. Are any of them ideal? NO! For close quarters a shotgun wins. At any distance at all I would prefer a rifle. A handgun is always a compromise.

    1. avatar Dave M says:

      Load your LCP with ARX ammo & then let me know what you think.

  45. avatar Tex300BLK says:

    I wish I could give this article a standing ovation, this is some EPIC trolling Robert!

    You’ve got a bunch of butthurt recoil junkies, typer-snipers and wannabe Travis Haleys in here at each other’s throats arguing like they are defending a PHD like anyone actually gives a shit. This is some good reading *cracks beer opens popcorn*

  46. avatar adverse4 says:

    No argument from me. Don’t care what anybody else uses. Every now and then can pick up a few useful tidbits from these articles, few and far between.

  47. avatar TommyJay says:

    I noticed that the recoil metric was stated in units of ft.-lbs. which is a unit of energy. I read the gundigest article which did explain that the recoil was measured with a specific gun in each case.

    If you wish talk about recoil as a property of the cartridge then you really should be measuring the momentum of the round. The momentum of the gun will be exactly equal in magnitude and opposite in direction (conservation of momentum).

    The total energy is also conserved but most energy goes into the kinetic energy of the round and the bang (acoustic energy), and then there is residual energy going into friction and gun motion. The last listed (the measurement in gundigest) is entirely dependent on moving slide/barrel mass and total gun mass, and will vary considerably from gun to gun.

    So the bullet momentum is just the bullet mass multiplied by the velocity. Correct units would be somethings like lbs.-ft./sec or grains-ft./sec (a large number) or slugs-ft./sec. (Couldn’t resist; slugs are the genuine correct units of mass in the English units system. Pounds are a unit of force only.)

    Gundigest does list the momentum (in unknown units) and it kinda tracks their gun energy measurement, but not exactly.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


      “If you wish talk about recoil as a property of the cartridge then you really should be measuring the momentum of the round. The momentum of the gun will be exactly equal in magnitude and opposite in direction (conservation of momentum).”

      You are on the right track … you forgot the momentum of the exhaust gases. Whether or not those are significant compared to the momentum of the bullet I have no idea. Clearly, the mass of the exhaust gases are fairly low. However, their velocity is significantly higher than the bullet.

      I figure the momentum of the exhaust gases are a significant fraction of total momentum … which is why muzzle brakes and suppressors noticeably reduce felt recoil.

  48. avatar miforest says:

    rule #1 – have a gun that goes bang every time you pull the trigger with the ammo you have in it,in a location you can access quickly, and that you can shoot without doing anything except pull the trigger, and holds at least 5 rounds or 6 rounds. practice with it a lot, at realistic combat ranges, because only hits count.

    people really hate getting shot, with anything.

    anything further is gravy. I have a 25, a 9mm , and a sig 220 full of 230gr +p . clearly the big sig is best stopper and accuracy. but Its not an everyday gun. All will work in a pinch.

  49. avatar TommyJay says:

    Stopping power is an interesting and ephemeral issue. An FBI report made the interesting point that in their experience the threat is stopped with the first bullet wound in about 50% of the cases, irrespective of ballistics or placement. Many people just don’t want to get shot again.

    A really thorough analysis was done by Greg Ellifritz at,
    where he has collected data on hundreds of shootings. There is a ton of data, but one important metric is the probability percentage for “failure to stop.” Note all the data depends on the shooter as well as gun and cartridge.

    The highest failure to stop is with 25 and 32 ACP at 35% and 40%.
    Next was 22LR at 31%,
    38 Spl at 17%,
    380 ACP at 16% and 9mm and 40SW both at 13%,
    and lastly 357Mag at 9%.

    1. avatar Kendahl says:

      Ellifritz’s study has been published several places including American Handgunner and his own web site ( I agree that failure to stop is the most useful metric because it doesn’t conflate psychological stops with physical ones. Although Greg doesn’t believe there are statistically significant differences between handgun calibers, I noticed that nonparametric comparisons between calibers made sense. For example, .357 magnum should be at least as good as .38 special which should be at least as good as .380.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      This data confirms the “conventional wisdom” that any handgun chambered in .380 ACP and up is a good choice for self-defense.

    3. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      I carry a Kel-Tec P32 sometimes, but I have no illusions about it. I just don’t live a very dangerous life and sometimes I want the smallest centerfire I can get.

      It’s funny at the outdoor range I go to, some of the steel targets are hinged “knockdown” targets and .32 ACP doesn’t always have the power to knock over the target. You have to hit it just right (to be fair, they’re really heavy steel). 🙂

  50. avatar skiff says:

    “I have my books and my poetry to protect me”, I Am a Rock, Simon and Garfunkel, Columbia Records, 1965. I have the 45 rpm!

  51. avatar John says:

    Ideal Self Defense Caliber: As big as necessary, and as small as possible. The largest caliber you enjoy shooting on a regular basis which meets the FBI’s 12″ penetration standard.

    The “small as possible” reduces weight and allows more rounds to be carried. The “big as necessary” makes sure it will get the job done (i.e. meet the FBI standards). The enjoyment criteria makes sure a person will regularly and often work on the number one factor for effective self-defense–shot placement.

    By this definition, some loads of .22 LR or .25 ACP will be ideal for some people.

    Self Defense Effectiveness
    1. Shot placement
    2. Depth of penetration
    3 and 4. Size of hole OR Number of rounds. Opinions vary as to which is most important so either could be number three or four.

  52. avatar Bob says:

    My carry gun is a 9mm with 147gr JHP’s. That should do nicely.

  53. avatar Your Real Name says:

    The list should start and end with .9mm

  54. avatar Tom says:

    For me the questions are, what is a reliable round, that I can shoot well, that can be found in good self defense varieties? What is common enough to find at every gun store yet will still be on the shelves where I live when the SHTF? For me the answer is .40S&W.

    Seriously, after Sandy Hook all the 9mm was gone from the shelves around here, .45 wasn’t much better, but .40 was still easy to find.

    I shoot what I can buy.

    1. avatar Bob says:

      That’s why I never allow my stash to drop below 1000 in 9mm and 5.56, 500 in .22 and .357for the wife, and 300 in 20 ga split between buck, shot, and slugs.

  55. avatar Ralph says:

    The 9mm rules because it’s easily handled by arthritic old people, small ladies and Nancy boys.

  56. avatar Accur81 says:

    One of the great benefits of 9mm is that it’s inexpensive, easy to practice with, easy to hit with, and easy to store large quantities of ammo.

    My list:

    #1. 9mm. (See above.)

    #2. .40 (many of 9mm’s positives with better ability to cut through windshields than 9mm.)

    #3. .380 (similar power to .38 Special while more compact, more capacity, and faster reloads than .38 snubbies.)

    I carry 9mm, .40, .45, .357 and .380 regularly so I don’t care that much about caliber choice. Big guns are definitely easier to control and hit with than snubby revolvers and subcompacts.

  57. avatar Charlie Dwyer says:

    If you don’t mind the weight and can shoot, the 10mm is King. No discussion encouraged or allowed. Say good bye to your hearing, maybe some of it permanently. On the plus side, if they are within 3 feet and wearing something easily flammable, you may also set them on fire!

    After many years of carrying a Commander sized 1911 in .45 I am transitioning to 9mm. Too many advantages not to.

    1. avatar Steve says:

      I almost bought a Glock in 10mm yesterday, but opted for the .45 ACP Glock 21 instead. I really thought it over though… I’d like to try shooting a 10mm one day just for the recoil experience. I’m not partial to any particular caliber these days, with ammo being much more advanced. The whole debate thing tires me out LOL. I just wanted you to know I do like the 10mm!

      1. avatar mdc says:

        Like my Glock 20 Gen 3 in 10mm. Big hands pistol that soaks up recoil. I prefer the 1250 f’ps to 1300 range 180 grain fall/winter carry.

        1. avatar Steve says:

          I can see why you’d like the 10mm. Shot the G21 .45 today and the recoil is totally controllable at least for me. Made nice holes in the target from 10 yards. My first time shooting a .45 of any kind LOL. I’ll get a 10mm someday!

    2. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      Wimp. Why aren’t you packing .50 AE?

  58. avatar 0351 says:

    In my unbiased opinion, the best carry cartridge is S&W 500, because see you in hell. One and done.

    1. avatar Steve says:

      Haha Love it!

  59. avatar 39Thorns says:

    #1 .45 acp…quieter, nightstand, plenty of great ammo choices, I shoot the 1911 well.

    #2 .38/.357 Magnum. Easy pocket carry, wife-friendly (38), no bullshit. I like revolvers. Quick run to the gas station, hike in the wilds, take the bus to work, its there.

    # 3 9mm. Why not? Lots of advantages, as listed above. I like the CZ 75. If I see a wolf-pack or zombie herd, hi-cap is cool.

    I don’t own any other handgun calibers, but I’d like to have 10mm and .44 Magnum, just to have them, and see how well I can shoot them.

    There are no “best” calibers among the big 6. .38, 357 mag, 9mm, 45 acp, 10mm, 44 mag, all good.

    I don’t understand the need for .40, 357sig, or .380, but those would probably work too. Not interested in buying them. Like 5.56, 7.62×39 and 30/30…..I don’t see the need, .22, 12 gauge, .308 does it all.

    Damn click-bait got me…..

  60. avatar Adam says:

    All the butthurt people here are playing right into TTAG hands. They post this clickbait BS cause they know you guys will click and comment (just like I am doing…). Fact is, the best caliber is the one you can carry comfortably/regularly and shoot accurately. You can kill a man with a pellet gun if you try hard enough and really, the best “self defense” round is a rifle round so all the 9 vs 45 debates are pretty pointless. Just remember, two in the chest, one in the head, caliber debate not needed.

    1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      If contributing to a friendly and pointless caliber war helps TTAG pay the bills, more power to them!

  61. avatar Jack says:

    Best to choose the largest caliber you will carry and can shoot well then practice, practice, practice. Because precision shots are only going to happen for accomplished shooters who put the time and effort in acquiring the skills.

  62. avatar Oscar Cannington says:

    Shot placement is King
    Penetration is Queen
    All the rest don’t mean Jack

  63. avatar Steve says:

    This is like choosing toilet paper. Pick the type that feels good to you, “on the whole”, (e.g. Dr. Evil). Personally, I like to experiment. I shoot 9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, .45 ACP and whatever else I can get my hands on. Having only 3 handguns, I’m kind of limited but shooting with friends who have different types really helps. My thinking is, if I have experience with all the popular calibers, and shoot enough, I can be accurate and control my recoil. That’s just me. For personal defense, slinging lead (or maybe ARX polymer these days) accurately and frequently enough to stop a threat is the ultimate goal. My perfect caliber is whatever is closest to me when I need it. Let’s not forget about maintaining your firearms and keeping them safe. I know this is about bullets, but we’ve gotta remember the basics. If your firearm isn’t properly maintained, and you don’t practice with it, you may have an unpleasant day, or night. Just my thoughts.

  64. avatar Montana Dan says:

    I was hoping to see a Public Defender with 000 Buck 410. I’d take that over 10mm

  65. avatar Sheepdog6 says:

    If you carry a…

    .22 LR – People shot with .22LR die all the time…of old age.

    .25 ACP or .32 ACP – Did you get lost on the way to the .45 ACP firearms and just assume all ACP named calibers are the same?

    .380 ACP – Because it makes sense to carry a gun large enough to shoot 9mm but chambered in a weak round that will only make your intended target angry.

    9×18 Makarov – Listen comrade, we don’t take kindly to you Communistas around here.

    9mm – The .45 ACP is bigger. It’s science and maths. John Browning will also haunt you from the grave if you don’t carry it. We don’t take kindly to you Europeans either.

    .40 SW – Did someone ask for an inaccurate round that will blow your gun up? And while you are at it make sure it has roughly the same recoil as a five inch naval deck gun. Good luck finding ammo for it in three years when no local or federal agency uses it any more.

    .38 Special – That’s the name of a band, not a useful defense caliber. Why is it chambered in a tiny revolver with a grip roughly the same size as a pinkie toe? Shooting a J-Frame is like holding on to a 1/4 pound of exploding C4.

    .357 Magnum – Listen Tex, this isn’t the wild west. The airplane was invented, people talk on the telephone, and your revolver fell out of style during one of the Teddy Rooseveldt administrations, though I forget which one.

    10mm – Your choices for handguns are limited to a plastic block of crap with absolutely no asthetics at all, or expertly hand crafted and fitted $3000 1911’s that only work after an extensive and expensive “breaking in” period. I hear if you buy a 10mm 1911 the manufacturer offers you a second mortgage to cover the cost of ammo needed to make it run reliably.

    .45 ACP – There is a reason we no longer drive Model T’s, drink Dr Pepper for it’s health benefits, or use telegraphs. Because 100 year old designs with grip safeties forced upon the inventor by this thing we used to call the “Horse Cavalry” are a thing of the past. Plus the bullet moves so slow that your intended target actually has time to move out of the way before it reaches him.

    .41 Magnum – The structural enhancements needed to your trousers to properly carry a large heavy revolver in this caliber put the Brooklyn Bridge to shame. What did you say grandpa? Your lever action rifle uses the same round? Lever action rifles are for Louie L’amour novels and hanging above fireplaces.

    .44 Magnum – The recoil from shooting this gun actually slows down the spinning of the earth, and I’m pretty sure it only holds 2 or 3 rounds. The cost of renting or buying the trailer that carries the large revolver that shoots this round is “yuge”. Yeah I said it.

    .327 Federal – Is this a thing…like, for real?

    5.7×28 – You officially use a round only good at doing one thing, and that thing is something you’ll never get to do. It’s like saying if you ever met an Israeli supermodel you have the perfect restaurant picked out to eat at before a night of debauchery. The truth…you’ll never meet an Israeli supermodel.

    .45 GAP – It’s as big and slow as .45 ACP but slower. I can outrun .45 GAP. If you carry this round I’m pretty sure you troll Ebay for underwear worn by Gaston Glock or the Gunny.

    .357 SIG – The SIG engineers created a round with the capacity of the .40SW, bullet size of 9mm, and velocity of .357 Magnum. It’s like they were playing a game of Mad Libs and used calibers instead of adjectives and nouns. Here is a Mad Lib for you. You are a “fool” if you carry a “handgun” in this “worthless” “crap” “useless” round.

    .50 AE – You play Call of Duty and you should be spayed or neutered, for the greater good of humanity.

    If you have made it to the bottom of this post then I hope

    A. You have been insulted
    2. You have been entertained
    III. You realize the above was purely for sport, was written out of sheer boredom, and was meant as a joke, and likely isn’t really very good…or funny.

    1. avatar Steve says:

      I’m saying #2 I was entertained. Plus a 3 because most of this was hilarious.

    2. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      #Rage! #DontDisMyCaliber!

    3. avatar tiger says:

      So, who are .38 super shooters? Just Mexican 1911 fans?

      1. avatar Sheepdog6 says:

        Huge oversight on my part,,,

        .38 Super – You are not John Dillinger. Carrying a 1911 in an obsolete caliber will not make you John Dillinger. My grandmother-in-law was in a sewing circle with John Dillinger’s sister. You are not John Dillinger. A 1911 in 9mm is a personal affront to God, John Browning, and humanity. A .38 super is just stupid.

  66. avatar J says:

    Glock 19/17 with federal HST 147gr , Federal bonded 135gr, or Winchester rangers in 147 or 127gr.

  67. avatar LJM says:

    Best self defense round is a good .45-70, 540 grain Garrett hardcast. Now that’s a one stop shot. Full stop.

  68. avatar Mad Max says:

    I wouldn’t want to get hit by one of the Buffalo Bore .38 Special +P rounds out of my 649 that I carry in my pocket.

    But then again, I have a P225 in 9 mm on my right hip with a spare mag in my other pocket and an LCP on my ankle, also with a spare mag.

    I can make a lot of small holes…

  69. avatar Gunr says:

    Always remember, even the little 22 in your pocket, is better than the 45 ACP you leave at home in your safe!

  70. avatar T. Rollin says:

    Can’t take an article seriously once it mentions 10mm…

  71. avatar CC Ryder says:

    Not sure if this could fit in to this discussion, but I wonder how the TCM 22 would do for armed self – defense.
    Low recoil and High fps.

  72. avatar Darrell in CO says:

    Gangbangers don’t seem to have much problem killing people with whatever caliber they can get their hands on. I assume the vast majority of them have limited or no access to ranges and training. I doubt many of them care about such things. I’ll bet that caliber arguments among criminals don’t go much further than the aesthetics of the gun itself.
    I find it remarkable that a more informed and legally armed group of people fret about this so much. Do you practice less firearm safety with your .22 than you do your .40? I bet you don’t. Or at least I hope you don’t . Practice with your gun and caliber of choice. Alot. Your ability to put rounds on target means a hell of a lot more than caliber size in my opinion.

  73. avatar Keith Mercer says:

    1. 357 Sig
    2. 40 Cal
    3. 45 ACP

  74. avatar CaliGunLover says:

    I’ve always felt the BEST is what YOU can shoot WELL. Heck a .22 up close 2 shots to the knee(s) , abdomen or throat will stop anyone imo and we won’t even think about above the neck. Can do a clean up if you have to once the BG is down with the rest of your rounds. So this question will always be a question for debate. I shoot well and I also live in California so I can’t just kill someone. My choice is a Buckmark Camper as well as a Taurus M82-4B in the drawer.

    In the safe is a Shotgun I may get a long gun one day but I prefer up close work and I could always just take whatever you bought lol. Oh and i’m a Liberal who believes in SOME things from the right just not all and guns are first on my list.

  75. avatar jwm says:

    .88 Magnum. Mic drop.

    1. avatar Adub says:

      It goes through schools. Full of liberals.

  76. avatar Montesa_VR says:

    179 responses so far and not a single vote for the .480 Ruger? Inconceivable! The .454 Casull and .480 and .500 S&Ws are guns to test your pain tolerance. Mortals can actually shoot the .480.

  77. avatar Adub says:

    .38 Special might be the most controllable for a revolver, but I’d wager more .380 guns are carried.

    That said, 9mm and 10mm are superior to .45 and .40 in capacity and energy. Just because 10mm isn’t popular doesn’t make it untrue.

  78. avatar FredFlintstone says:

    Seems to me any caliber choice is ultimately a considered compromise. You balance variables like size v capacity, recoil v accuracy, etc to infinity and beyond. My personal choice for best of all worlds is .40S&W, but I know folks who are blissfully happy with .380ACP and I even know one guy who walks lopsided from toting around a S&W 500. I say find your gun, love your gun and never leave your gun behind, after that the question of caliber has a way of sorting itself out.

  79. avatar mach37 says:

    I’ve owned them all, nearly that is: .22, 380, 9mm, 38 Special, 357, 45ACP, 45 Colt, 40 S&W, and 10mm. I named the last two last because that’s where I place them. 40 S&W and 10mm are NOT fun to shoot, while the others are, and are controllable. Except for weight, my 1911 Officer’s is nearly as concealable as many 9mm, so I go with the 1911 or a Kel-Tec P-11. I also like the 45 Colt, but it is not a CCW; not many places I want to go looking like a cowboy.

    I had a Kel-Tec PF-9, but it was not noticeably smaller or lighter than the P-11, and lost favor for the low capacity mags. My accuracy is about the same with all of them, but my hand was hurting and slowing down before using up a full magazine of 40 or 10mm.

  80. avatar TRX says:

    A few years back there was a forum discussion about how several policemen had shot a “suspect” 19 times and the guy was still fighting when they cuffed him.

    While various people were discussing possible PCP use or superhuman hit points, I was thinking “nineteen hits, and none of them any place where they did much good.”

    Realtors say, “Location, location, location.” The same applies to bullet placement.

  81. avatar RK says:

    I think that a new or inexperienced shooter might shoot better with a 9mm, but to say it’s easier to hit with a 9mm than a .45 is a bit misleading, in my humble opinion. Sight alignment, grip, and trigger control will be the same. The time the pistol spends in recoil may differ slightly, but I don’t feel that is as big an issue as it is sometimes made out to be, especially to a new shooter who won’t be doing much rapid fire anyway. Interestingly enough, I actually shoot better in rapid fire with my HK45 than my P229 in 9mm. Love em both, though.

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